Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sleeping With Claire

The following guest-post was written by Gillian Bennett. Bennett is a graduate from The Neighborhood Playhouse School Of The Theatre in New York City. She has a BFA in Creative Writing from UBC. She is an award-winning playwright and actress. She has been one of my closest friends for over fifteen years & I've been lucky enough to work with her on stage- she's one of the most talented, imaginative women I've ever known...
Visit for more information.

Instead of doing a Manbbatical to change my pattern with men, I spent 3 months as an outpatient in a psych ward, living in my mother’s basement in Edmonton, having just been dumped by a guy I had fooled myself into thinking I loved. Post break-up, I drank my face off, sent him pathetic emails with cloying subject lines like “why?” and did what my girlfriends warned me against, I read self-help books and convinced myself I had every disorder listed: bipolar, borderline, narcissism…you name it, I had them all. I had to be pathological, right? It couldn’t just be me making bad choices. I now realize I dodged a bullet with that guy. I had been pouring myself into his ugly cracks and calling it “romance.”

But at the time, I sat there stunned in group therapy, looking around me at the bad furniture and sad faces, asking myself “why” with more urgency. My favorite group was “insight” group. Since we all seemed to lack any insight whatsoever, I enjoyed the irony. But we’d sit there, and the rule was that the two therapists wouldn’t speak, WE had to start the conversation…. the screwed up ones who didn’t know how to communicate. I guess they were trying to teach us about responsibility.

As a result, there were many long, awkward meetings where no one said anything, we just stared at the floor and waited for it to be over, which was sort of like how my last relationship had gone. It gave me pause to think. And I guess that is what Claire just created for herself, a yearlong pause.

When Claire and I lived together in New York City, before my stint with the bad egg, we slept together. I was always on the top and she was on the bottom…of our bunk beds. We never shared a bunk, if that’s what you are wondering. It was platonic in our miniscule, cockroach infested, Hell’s Kitchen apartment.

The guys we shared the place with also had bunk beds in their room, which seems somehow worse for guys than for girls. But our roommates asserted their machismo by leaping all Dukes of Hazard like in and out of bed. It was about as action adventure as they could muster, but really it was because they never could figure out how to screw the ladder together.

Our apartment was a mini camp for adults and perhaps it infantilized us, but I like to think it brought innocence to challenging times. Claire and I rubbed ourselves up against the bones of New York letting the friction define us. It was how you would throw yourself against the first lover that could bring you to orgasm, the first one that you actually could be yourself with, who you found sexy and mysterious, and sometimes mean. The first lover that knew more than you did.

There was no place for moderation during this time; moderation was for boring conformists who slept on a bed with a pillow top (the kind I sleep on now). In New York, we loved and hated each other and ourselves with equal passion, we stumbled around the city in awe and in despair, we foolishly loved the same man, forgave ourselves, forgave each other, and fell back into bed together again. Our time together in bed was, mostly, innocent.

We got the bunk beds at Ikea in New Jersey (thus the difficulty with the ladder). Because we were broke, I scooped a mattress from the sale bin, only to discover it was a child sized mattress and didn’t fit the bunk, so when I was lying on it on the top bunk, I could easily roll over and would look down at Claire through the slats in the frame. This is how we’d drift to sleep, laughing and talking, sometimes crying, often about men and love and wondering who, if anyone, would ever love us back. We fell asleep alone together, dreaming.

During our third year in New York, I found myself homeless and moved into Claire’s apartment with her. This time, she had a mature roommate who could do things like pay rent and unclog the drain; they lived together on the Upper East Side. We were still in love with New York, and still looking for love. Claire was kind enough to let me sleep in her bed with her…for months. I have always found Claire to be extremely generous with sharing her bed, and maybe this is part of what has contributed to her need for a Manbbatical.

Some of you reading this have probably shared a bed with Claire. If you have, then lucky you. She is hot, her skin is soft, she cuddles and smells really good all the time, like plums I think. Or maybe citrus? And she doesn’t accidentally punch you in the face in the middle of the night. Except that one time, but I was totally asking for it.

She saved me from unwanted bedfellows and made me feel less lonely. I was looking for some kind of acceptance, or validation from men in New York but didn’t realize I was getting it from Claire all along. She didn’t kick me out of bed for eating crackers, and she probably should have.

I wasn’t really slutting around as much as I fooled myself into thinking I was falling in love, night after night with guys who did kick me out of bed, for a far lesser violation than crackers. They were probably just annoyed with my desperation, because for me it wasn’t about sex. I wanted more. I venture to say Claire and I were both invested in casual sex with a strident dedication. It kind of wrecked the whole point of casual sex, since the expanse of each night was like the journey through a relationship. We demanded the casual romps be laden with…ugh…meaning.

What Claire may not know is that I think I was in awe of her. She always drew people to her. The bagel guy at 4 am that would run out every night and give her hot bagels as we walked by, the guys at the deli, the guys in our class…. She claims in her blog that she needs to seek out moderation, but her intensity is one of the things that I, and others, have loved. Maybe moderation is overrated. There is that famous William Blake quote, “The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom…for we never know what is enough until we know what is more than enough.” I bet Claire has discovered that abstinence is more than enough, and I would caution Claire to practice moderation in moderation.

Now, with this Manbattical what I see happening is Claire creating meaning for herself, outside of her bed. This ain’t easy, God knows. I think what she is saying with the Manbbatical is “I’m OK alone”. And she is. Now, the fact that she is doing this, as some have pointed out, places extra emphasis on this idea of partnering with someone, thus by it’s very definition the Manbbatical could be said to be about an absence, about what is lacking. Or people say it’s a promotional thing. But who cares. So what. At least she’s doing something.

By some miracle, I got very lucky in love myself. I had similar issues with men that Claire talks about in her blog, which landed me in the hospital. I think I was looking for men to reflect me to myself, somehow. And I always sought out the damaged guys, the ones who were great at withholding. But it was never really about the men. Not really.

I think the only reason I’m lucky enough to have found and married a wonderful man, is the pause I took. I guess the 3 months of reflection in group therapy wasn’t a complete waste of time, because when I connected with my husband to be, though I loved being with him and it felt so good, I thought no, he’s too nice. It’s too easy.

And I entered reluctantly, as did he, into our relationship. We had both just been hurt. We both sort of had a Manbbatical attitude in the beginning, swearing to each other we were not actually dating as we rolled out of bed every morning, we told ourselves that this didn’t mean anything to us, really. We tricked ourselves into trying, when we may not have tried before. It’s when I looked away that it seemed to happen for me.

And, as I tell Claire, I struggle lots, I’m still a neurotic basket case with lots of self-loathing and doubt. I’m so lucky to be with my husband, but we make tones of mistakes. Just this week, after another fiery argument, my husband and I were practicing saying the line, “You may be right” to each other when we disagree. We both hate saying it, since we both know we are right, but we’re working on it.

Hopefully you don’t need to have a nervous breakdown, or swear off men for a year, in order to find love. This sounds cheesy, so forgive me, I’m no comedian and it’s just how I see it. But I don’t think unrequited love is found, I think it’s made.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you have a really great friend there, Claire, and what perfect words and reflections for the end stretch of your manbbatical. Great guest post!

claire elyse said...

isn't she fantastic? she makes me sound a lot better than i actually am... i love her guts, a lot.

Anonymous said...

I can say with certainty that I have definitely punched Claire in the face in my sleep while sharing a bed.

Sorry Clairey! I still feel guilty about my sleep-rage. But you're SO not the only one I've done it to.

- Lisa

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